Monthly Archives: June 2011

What? Me worry?

Things I’m actually worrying about today:

Getting to work on time

Drinking at least three cups of coffee

Paying my daughter’s child care (that stuff is expensive!)

Starting what feels like 20 projects at work

Checking twitter on my break,  seeing that people are still worried about stuff that they have no control over

Getting through several meetings

Greece, what is up with them?

Speaking of grease, why does the screen protector on my iPad get so much greasier than the bare screen?

What am I going to eat for lunch?

Hoping my 12 year old dog doesn’t pee in the house

More meetings

Leave work early, because I get to go to the dentist!

What am I going to eat for dinner after my mouth has been destroyed?

Do I have the stuff to make hummus?

Should I eat hummus with a blowed up tooth?

OH GOD THERE’S NOTHING BUT ‘REALITY’ TELEVISION ON TELEVISION

Why can’t I sleep?

Words with friends

Ugh, have to get up and do this all over again

Things I’m not worried about today:

Lady Nina’s Tweets, because I really don’t care

All those guys out there who claim to be Arsenal shareholders’ tweets because owning a share of Arsenal only means that you have a piece of paper worth £11,000 not that you have any keen insight into anything. I mean, I own shares in Google, does that give me special insight into what their R&D are working on?

Bronies, because Bronies are the new Furries

Why I have such a small following after years, and I mean YEARS of daily writing because after all this time it must be something fundamental about me that causes this phenomena and I suppose I should just accept that

AC Milan not landing Cesc because non-stories are non-stories and quotes from Italian GMs are almost always wrong

Nasri not getting a physical because that was a non-story broken by a non-reporter on Twitter who claims to be a shareholder

What Cesc’s  ‘actual value’ is because his actual actual value is the price that Arsenal are willing to sell him for and whomever is buying him are willing to pay

How much money Arsenal are making off corporate sponsorshit, because sitting around complaining about things that are beyond my control is a waste of my time. I can wish for a lot of things, but if I was going to wish for something, it would NOT be for “Arsenal to find ways to increase revenue streams.” That seems awfully shallow

The new Arsenal away kit because it’s ugly but no one cares what a Google shareholder like me thinks

What would happen if Gooners actually convinced the board to buy Gary Cahill for £30m or whatever Bolton want and he turns out to be the next Senderos? Because you have to wonder why Manchester United would spend a ton of money on center backs over the last two years and neither of them were named Gary or Cahill

What would happen if Gooners actually convinced the board to buy Samba and he turns out to be the next Igors Stepanovs? Because as much as people like to say that “he played center forward for Blackburn” if you ever watched any of those matches you would know that it was a gimmick, like Manute Bol shooting three pointers

What is going on with Gervinho’s five-head?

Who Arsenal is going to buy today because we all know that the really real transfer window opens tomorrow

Whether Arsenal could just move van Persie into “the Cesc role” or Vermaelen “to Clichy’s place” because not only is that neither of those players’ best positions but also because playing left back at Ajax is not even close to playing left back at Arsenal and playing a bona fide center forward as a creative midfielder ignores all the other stuff that a midfielder has to do. I mean, have you seen van Persie tackle?

And finally, I’m not worried about why Denilson hasn’t been moved because I told everyone when we learned that he’s earning £3m a year that he would be difficult to move and that all the Gooners shitting on his reputation certainly wouldn’t improve his value. This same thing could be said about Almunia, Rosicky, Bendtner, and all the other players that you’d like to see sold but who you think are garbage. I mean, come on, people, if you think they are garbage then why wouldn’t everyone else in world football think they are garbage? And what CEO is going to risk his job buying over-priced garbage?*

That’s where I am today, and with that I’ll leave you with this video of Patrick Vieira and one last thought… If I were to worry about anything related to Arsenal today then it would be worrying how Wenger is going to uncover another gem like Vieira. Which I’m not going to do because as you can see, I already have plenty to worry about.

*Insert Ivan Gazidis joke here…

By the numbers: Cesc ça change tout?

 

Before we start let me just get a few things out of the way:

  1. Yes, I already know that numbers don’t tell the whole story. Please take the numbers as presented, they are not meant to be the entire story of Arsenal’s season, they are just one of many stories of Arsenal’s season.
  2. Yes, I am fully aware of the fact that there are many other factors that contribute to the success or failure of a team: I could look at shots per game, which defenders played, how many passes per game, what the team makeup is on a specific day, who the referee was, on and on.
  3. Yes, I am aware that I am using “newsroom math”.
  4. If you don’t like people using data to tell a story, that’s fine, all I ask is that if you must comment you don’t repeat any of the items on this list.
  5. Thanks.

With that said…

The first column represents Arsenal’s Premier League performance when Cesc has any involvement in a game at all: this includes his subs on, subs off, early exits due to injury, late exits due to injury, desperation subs on, everything. The reason for including all of his subs off for injury (or what have you) is because even a small appearance from Cesc can have a profound impact on the team — as we saw in the FA Cup and the game against Sunderland.

That said, you really only need to look at a couple of columns to see the profound impact Cesc seems to have on this Arsenal team. Cesc played 25 Premier League games, Arsenal lost 4 of them. Arsenal played 13 Premier League games without Cesc, Arsenal lost 4 of them. Arsenal suffered nearly double the loss percentage when Cesc didn’t play this season.

The other column that is particularly interesting is goals conceded per game. It’s a bit of a surprise that Arsenal allow nearly double the number of goals per game without Cesc as they do with Cesc. Cesc isn’t a defensive midfielder and isn’t going to dive in from 30 yards out to wreck someone like Karl Henry, but there’s something odd about Arsenal’s defense with him in the team. Is it because Arsenal hold the ball better? Is it because of the offensive threat he poses? I don’t know. I’d have to look at more data to answer those questions.

I included the final column to show what impact Cesc had on all competitions that Arsenal played in and the numbers are very similar: 2 goals per game, 1 goal conceded, 60% winning percentage, etc. I’d like to look at all of Arsenal’s losses without Cesc but I didn’t have time this morning.

For those who want a qualitative analysis there are some interesting facts about Cesc’s season that you can pick up on. Cesc played in almost all of Arsenal’s most spectacular defeats/draws last season. Losses to Newcastle at home, Tottenham at home, Ipswich in the FA Cup, that 2-0 loss to f*cking Braga, and Bolton which killed the season all featured Cesc heavily. You can add in the draws to Liverpool at home, Tottenham away, Blackburn at home (UGH), and Newcastle away (vomit) for a full appreciation of Arsenal’s struggles even with the captain in the team.

The Braga loss and the Sunderland draw are both interesting because Cesc was subbed in both games and Arsenal went on to drop points. Against Braga, he came off in the 68th minute and they won 2-0. Against Sunderland Arsenal were up 1-0 thanks to an amazing strike by Fabregas (remember, he blocked the clearance and it went in) who had to then be subbed off. Sunderland ended up getting a point in the last minute. Though, that Sunderland match is suspicious because Dowd was the referee and Song got a red for two yellows so Arsenal were reduced to 10 men. Oh and I believe the match lasted something like 98 minutes which allowed Bent to score in the 103rd minute of the allotted 8 minutes of added time.*

Anyway, I just wanted to follow up to yesterday’s post about blowing the team up if Cesc leaves. Hopefully, you see why it makes me nervous when people say “oh Nasri can just slot in there” or “why not play Robin van Persie in midfield.” Because for me, neither of those two are really an option.

Post Script

I am aware of Lady Nina’s schizophrenic tweets because I follow her on twitter. I am also aware of the fact that the press are running with her latest tweet about sacking the board. I am intentionally not commenting because basically, she tweets like a drunken trust fund teenager and I don’t really want to be drawn in on a debate over what she has said. She will publicly take a stance in one tweet, delete that tweet, and dissemble in the next.

Methinks she doth protest too much.

Reading her tweets is like reading someone lashing out at their ex. It’s a trainwreck and it’s no wonder that the press is picking up on all this. I hope she gets some counseling because in my experience, this can only end badly. Like one night she’ll be standing outside Highbury House after ten too many cocktails and the police will be called because she’s throwing rocks at the boardroom window while variously screaming at the board to take her back and telling them that they all have tiny penises.

Seriously, my Lady, put down the twitter and get some help.

*Not really, but Dowd did add 6 minutes, which was odd, even for Dowd.

Selling Cesc means blowing this team up

Don't cross the streams

First — I’m not buying that

I’m not going to tell you what to do but there is no way in hell I’m buying an Arsenal kit that looks like a can of Red Bull. Maybe one day some blogger called “West Upper” will use this kit as an ironic paean to his or her youth and the days when Arsenal were struggling to maintain 4th place while the Premier League was awash in foreign money.

I don’t know.

Is there anyone who genuinely likes this design?

Cescond

For those of you who don’t already know I subscribe to L’Equipe’s RSS feed because they are generally very reliable when it comes to transfer news. So when I read today’s headline that Cesc is out the door I will admit to feeling a pit in my stomach. I felt slightly better reading the entire story because the content is mostly recycled from other reports and at one point even quotes the Grauniad. But when I step back and look at things objectively I have to admit, it looks like Arsenal are negotiating.

One thing that’s been bothering me about this is the casual nature with which some bloggers and readers seem to be handling the sale of this player because for me, selling Cesc is a major change in direction for the club.

Tactically, the team is built around Cesc. Arsenal don’t have a collection of slick passing central midfielders on accident. Arsenal don’t play Bendtner, Theo, Arshavin, and Nasri on the “wing” because Arsene Wenger is stupid or because Arsenal don’t have the money to buy real wing players — for the price of central players like Arshavin, Theo, and Nasri Arsenal could have bought six wing players if they wanted.

Instead, Arsenal designed a system around Cesc Fabregas, starting with a 4-5-1 and morphing into the 4-3-3. This allowed Cesc to be more creative in midfield while relieving him of the defensive duties that a midfielder in a 4-4-2 would traditionally be expected to carry. Moreover, the tippy-tappy football, the possession based offense, and the high line with wing backs bombing forward are all a product of having four central midfielders on the pitch at all times. It was a system designed for Cesc and selling Cesc means changing the system, right?

The other thing that bothers me is this idea that selling Cesc means that Nasri will just step right in and take over the central midfield role. Maybe he could do that but I haven’t seen anywhere near the consistent quality going forward or back from Nasri that I’ve seen from Cesc.

I’m not saying that I dislike Nasri, his dribbling skills are probably the best on the team at the moment and he scores big goals in big games. But even with all his quality he doesn’t have the same skill set that Cesc has. I know that I’ll get stick for this but Nasri’s range of passing is poor, he doesn’t play through balls (Cesc averages two completed per game, no one else on the team even averages one), he drifts in and out of games, and from what I can tell, putting him in the center of Arsenal’s attack means that once again we have to play a 4-3-3.

I also want to mention that at a time when Arsenal fans are calling for “players who will die for the shirt” we will be swapping a guy who came to us when he was 16 and really appreciates the opportunity this team has given him for a guy who is pretty much banking on half a good season and holding the club hostage over what look to me unreasonable salary demands.

Nasri isn’t a bad player, or a bad human being, I just don’t see him as a replacement for Cesc. In fact, I don’t see anyone in world football as a direct replacement, except a couple of fellas who play for Barcelona.

So, while I know it’s popular right now to just want an end to the saga, or to say that so-and-so can replace Cesc, I completely disagree. Cesc is irreplaceable and selling him means a massive change to everything about the way that this club plays.

Arturo the Third

Which brings me to Arturo Vidal. My regular readers know that I’ve been high on Vidal since the start of the transfer window. From what I’ve seen he was the second best player in the Bundesliga and while he suffers a bit from indiscipline he’s the kind of all action player that Arsenal would need if they are going to sell Cesc and switch to a different, more 4-4-2 formation. In fact, I think you could play Jack and Vidal through the middle and they would terrify the opposition.

Vidal averaged 4.7 tackles per game and from that got just 4 yellow cards and 1 red. Song averaged 3.3 tackles per game and committed 2  fouls per but also gathered 7 yellow cards and 1 red. So, while the rap on Vidal is his indiscipline, Arsenal’s current crop of midfielders make Vidal look like a pussycat.

But Vidal is more than just a tackler, he drew 4 fouls a game while only averaging 3 turnovers per and led his team in key passes per game with 1.94, the same number as Samir Nasri. He also averaged a completed cross per game and 4 completed long balls per while Nasri was just 1 and 1. Oh, and he scored 10 goals (mostly from pens) and added a team leading 11 assists.

In short, he’s a tenacious defender, a great ball winner, is safe with the ball, has tremendous range passing, finds open players, is committed to his team, and a leader in the midfield. Vidal is a box-to-box player who could team with Jack to make a formidable midfield duo for years to come.

Add in some true wing players like Gervinho and that kid from Spain who doesn’t want to play for Arsenal, then buy Gary Cahill by trading him for Denilson, Diaby, Squillaci, Vela, and Chamakh, and add the final piece by bringing in Moussa Sow and BAM — you’re playing football manager…

Joking aside, we’ll see what Wenger does but, like I predicted at the start of the season it’s looking a lot like this team is being blown up. And that means a lot of work ahead rebuilding.

Or… maybe we’ll fulfill some folks wishes and just play Henri Lansbury in all 11 starting positions. After all, he scored the goal against Tottenham and jumped really high in the air. Clearly he’s ready for the big time.